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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

Officials Allow Limo/Doorman
Extortion Scam To Continue

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
August 10, 2009

LAS VEGAS - Last week I wrote how hundreds of Vegas cabbies are boycotting a local strip club that has its roots in a scam that involves certain Strip hotel doormen calling selected limos and vans to the front of the taxi line when tourists request rides to adult businesses -- some that are extorted into paying drivers up to $100 per passenger delivered to their door, or face being boycotted.

The most recent scam involves doormen singling out potential strip club patrons and "brokering" limo and van rides to their boss' strip club, i.e., offering free transportation if the riders agree to go to only that location.

In the meantime, cab drivers are forced to take passengers only to locations that do not pay extortion, thereby severely cutting into income that was once their exclusive domain. This has caused angry confrontations and violence.

Most of the extortion bounty is split between a select group of doormen, their strip club owner boss, and his silent partner -- the owner of a certain limo company. A small cut is given to the limo and van drivers who must often defend their actions with their fists when cabbies protest after a black limo or van cuts in front of them in the queue.

The August 3, 2009 INSIDE VEGAS column opined that the most vocal complainer is the godson of one of our town's biggest crooks, and how he's being singled out by the left-out cabbies, and how he got juiced into running the front doors of several of the biggest hotels because his ex-wife is the "whale lady" at those casinos. The column also tells how his godfather was a whale in her casinos, and with her help, how his godson managed to send thousands of customers to his now-defunct strip club, the Crazy Horse Too.

After the Crazy Horse was closed by the feds and the godfather imprisoned, the godson's doorman status suddenly catapulted him to topless club mogul -- possibly with his godfather acting as silent partner.

The following letter from Mendy Elliot, Director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, just surfaced. It tells of a 2008 effort on the part of the state to stop the limo/doorman scam, and may be the smoking gun that law suit plaintiffs and the IRS are looking for.

The week after this letter was received by management at all Vegas hotels, Ms. Elliot was transferred to another position in state government.

At the time of the letter, extorted businesses were paying around $50 per passenger.

Elliot's replacement, Dianne Cornwall, did not follow through with the enforcement action, nor did Andrew MacKay and Gordon Walker of the Nevada Taxicab authority. It's as if the letter was never written. The prevalence of the limo/doorman scam has escalated, and the bounty has risen to over $100 per passenger during the past year.

In the meantime, Rizzolo's godson has produced a video complaining of being boycotted by taxi drivers. However, he doesn't mention that it's his casino doormen who are creating the problem by letting competing limos and vans cut in to the front of the queue of taxis to hustle customers to his club. He just says that "good people" at the hotels send him customers. He neglects to mention that he takes a cut from his doormen who participate in the extortion of his competitors, and divert as many strip club bound patrons to his club as they can.

As this illegal practice continues, two lawsuits, one local, the other federal, are winding their way through the courts. Neither lawsuit has yet targeted the real culprit in this scam; the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, an agency that has the authority to enforce at least three ignored state laws, but has opted out.

Several weeks after the above letter went out, Governor Jim Gibbons replaced Mendy Elliot. Her successor, Dianne Cornwall, was selected without taking competitive applications by Gibbons who is a close friend of transportation lobbyist Sig Rogich (shown hugging fellow lobbyist Billy Vassiliadis).

Cornwall's sudden about face on the limo/doorman issue inspired questions as to whether her appointment was politically motivated?

In addition to being Gibbons' campaign manager and fund raiser, Rogich represents the interests of transportation companies including some that do not want to pay their often non-citizen drivers fair wages and benefits, and consider the pay offs drivers receive from adult businesses as supplemental wages.

In 2005, a local cab company hired Rogich to kill legislation that would have required cameras in cabs. Between 1995 when cameras were first proposed, and 2005 when they were voluntarily installed in most taxies, nineteen local taxi drivers were killed during robberies, and most of their assailants got away. Since 2005, no driver has been harmed in camera equipped cabs despite Rogich's efforts.

Immediately upon taking over the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, Cornwall stopped the limo driver/hotel doorman payoff enforcement action. It's not known whether Rogich influenced her decision, but the only persons the discontinuation of this enforcement action benefit are certain limo and taxi company owners, certain doormen, and one strip club owner.

It's been suggested that Dianne Cornwall and her Department of Business and Industry be added as defendants in the two lawsuits. That way she can be placed under oath, and the reason for her sudden stoppage of the enforcement action can be determined. IRS criminal investigation agents looking into the multimillion-dollar cash-for-customers business may also find Ms. Cormwall's explanation of interest.

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